Preparation of Welsh Ponies for a Show.
A responsible breeder should want to follow the directions and advice given from the "mother" society concerned and also adhere to the given standards of the related breeding association. To establish and anchor his own criterion a comparison of a large number of the particular breed concerned is unavoidable. It is essential to attend as many shows as possible – and there appraise the breeding products of long established breeders who are recognised for their success over a longer period of time (some over several decades). Only those interested enough to indulge in this time consuming, however imperative and enjoyable pastime can improve their own knowledge which can in turn be utilised to improve their own breeding products.
The prevailing judge must endeavour to recognise the difference between apparent weaknesses of a particular pony shown due to either limitations of a genetical kind or weaknesses relating to the poor presentation of the pony on the hand. Exterior characteristics such as the condition, care and presentation should not influence the judge in his overall assessment however it is incredibly difficult to recognise in a few short moments an overall picture of the qualities and blemishes of the animal concerned. The exterior of the pony does then consequently influence the decision of the judge – first impressions count!
In the preparation of ponies for a show there are not only general rules – the regulations set in the country of origin should be taken into consideration. Not only are the judges from Wales aware of theses regulations – all judges of the Welsh breeds lay great value on the correct execution of these traditional customs.
Any rules and regulations related to the exterior styling of a horse or pony are of course not allowed to be of a disadvantage to the pony's quality of life. The so called "clipping", the removal via trimming of the whiskers/hairs in the muzzle region has been a well discussed subject in the "Welsh scene" recently. In relation to this subject – the German animal protection rights leave no question of doubt and state §6 Paragraph 1, Sentence 1 Animal Protection Rights: the complete or part amputation of parts of the body or the part/complete removal or functional destruction of organs and tissues of any vertebrate is strictly forbidden.
The senses of a horse or pony (including of course the sense to feel) belong, without doubt, to the function of the organs in general. Should the "feeling" hairs on the muzzle be shaved off, the function of this organ as described in the Animal Protection Rights has been disturbed. As such is the method "clipping" against the Animal Protection Rights and presents a clear case of lawful infringement for which the party concerned can be held responsible and consequently sued.
Hairs that grow in the ears of ponies and horses also have a protective function; foreign bodies are prevented from entering the ear canal.
Large bushes of hair extruding out of the ear alter the visual proportions in relation to the size of the head. There is nothing against the trimming of the external hairs as long as the protective function of the hairs within the ear is not disturbed. If the ear is held closed and the hairs outside of the ear are trimmed, the function of the hairs within the ear is retained.
The freedom of the head carriage and size and type of jaws are significant in assessing the ability to move in rhythm freely, on the bit when being ridden or driven. A thick, heavy jaw line can inhibit the free movement of the head and carriage of the head, whereas a free and fine jaw line may illustrate a better head carriage. The long hairs on the lower jaw may alter the appearance of the head to give a false impression of the jaw line.
To avoid this, the hairs on the lower jaw may be removed. If scissors are used ugly cut edges may be seen (it is possible to trim the jaws correctly with scissors, but most people can't be bothered to take the time to find out how). Should the hairs be singed off with the aid of a fire lighter these cut edges can be avoided.
The singing of the hairs on the lower jaw line should however be practised at any early age (foal) the ponies will then not be disturbed from the smell and noise from he singed hairs. The singing of these hairs, when carried out properly and carefully is not painful.
With the exception of Welsh Part bred ponies the manes of Welsh ponies for show purposes are not to be plaited. Alongside this general rule, it is against the traditional customs of the "mother land" and as such should be respected and avoided at all times in order to prevent breeders getting a false impression. A pony should however be presented at a show with a well cared for mane, correctly groomed and pulled. Welsh ponies belong to the noble breeds and as such should carry their mane on the right hand side. This is sometimes easier said than done! In order to "train" the mane to lie on the right hand side, one should practise when grooming from a very early age (foal), the mane can be dampened with water to help.
A day before a show, the mane can be additionally plaited in long plaits (the mane previously wet). When the plaits are then removed and the mane brushed shortly before the show it stays more often than not on the right hand side of the neck. Hairspray, mousse and gel can all help to achieve the required effect.
The mane should be trimmed to show the contours of the neck to its best advantage. The mane should be trimmed to a universal length; the exact length is dependant on the neck line of the pony concerned. The mane should however not be longer than the neck itself as this would hide the natural contours and neck line in general – which is not an advantage when the pony is assessed in its entirety. The shortening of the mane should only be executed with a comb produced for this purpose. The hairs that are considered too long are wrapped around the comb, a few at a time, and the small wisps pulled out. Not only does this method shorten the mane, it also thins the mane out which allows it to lay flatter on the neck.
After a thorough washing and rinsing the tails hairs should be carefully separated from one another with the hand using the thumb and forefingers.
A mane and tail can appear thicker when the day before the show they are plaited after washing and shortly before the show the plaits undone.
The tail should only be trimmed when completely clean and the hairs separated as described above.
The hairs should be trimmed parallel to the ground. A pony carries its tail differently when moving as opposed to standing still. We can only trim the tail when the pony is standing and to achieve a similar height in the tail carriage a second person should hold the tail higher at the dock to imitate the tail carriage when moving, and the tail then trimmed.
The required length, generally speaking, when the pony moves is approximately at the same height as the level of the hocks.
It is often seen that Part bred Welsh ponies have the hairs on both sides of the dock removed (either clipped or with scissors).
To remove these hairs obviously reduces the fullness of the tail and also disturbs the protective function of the tail, i.e. to protect the anus and vagina from damp and dirt.
The dependency of the pony on this protective function is related to how the pony is kept. Should you want to obtain a noble, high carriage of the tail you could revert to plaiting the hairs at the dock region which is common place in England.
This is however only applicable to Welsh Part breds and should not be used on Welsh ponies.
The description of the required Welsh Section A and B ponies is a strong, short, oval cannon bone and therefore the removal of the hairs in the pastern and coronet region alter drastically and negatively the appearance of the pony – these hairs on the legs should not be removed. T
There has been a case where a Welsh stallion has been presented and honoured as "Champion stallion of the year" and the particular Welsh B stallion concerned had been completely clipped, the mane plaited, the tail hairs clipped in the dock region and all hairs removed from the legs.
Only the Welsh Part breds may be presented with tail hairs trimmed at the dock region and hairs on the cannon bones, pastern and coronet removed and mane plaited up.
In conclusion it may be stated that a professional styling/preparation of a pony does not guarantee an improved placing at a show over a competitor's pony that is superior in exterior quality and movement. However should two ponies of equal exterior quality and movement be compared, more often than not, the better prepared pony, where the exhibitor has adhered to the traditions and customs of the pony association of the land of origin, will be placed before the "unprepared" pony even though Welsh ponies still belong to the native breeds of the horse world